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Pressure builds on military recruiters

By Eric Ruder | May 20, 2005 | Page 1

THE U.S. military is having trouble recruiting enough people to fill its ranks. And now Pentagon officials admit that they're also having trouble getting their recruiters to follow the law.

On May 20, the U.S. Army's 7,500 recruiters will halt recruiting activities for a day to hold a nationwide "values stand-down." "It's ethics-under-pressure training," said Douglas Smith, spokesperson for the Army's recruiting command. "Some of it is simply part of an Army-wide reaffirmation of ethics. It also is directly related to the allegations that we've seen of recruiting improprieties."

This is an admission that recruiters are bending the rules--or worse--to meet recruiting quotas.

In Ohio, one family reported that recruiters signed up their mentally ill son, even though the Army's own rules forbid this. "David McSwane, a 17-year-old who lives outside Denver, also recently caught one recruiter on tape, advising him on how to create a fake diploma, and another helping him buy a product that purportedly cleansed his system of illegal-drug residue," the New York Times reported. One recruiter gave laxatives to a recruit so that he could quickly shed weight and pass an Army physical.

In several cases, recruiters have threatened their targets with jail or arrest for missing an appointment or trying to get out of enlistment.

For three months in a row, the Army has failed to meet its recruiting quotas, and the Marines haven't met their goal since January. One reason is obvious--mounting U.S. casualties in the occupation of Iraq. In addition, counter-recruitment efforts by activists on campuses nationwide have presented new obstacles for recruiters to overcome.

The pressure that Army officials put on recruiters is so intense, however, that some told the New York Times that "they were not convinced the content of the training would be meaningful. [These recruiters] said they saw it as a routine day of safety training, with a dose of ethics as an afterthought."

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